Heart of Romaine Salad with Pico de Gallo and Avocado Dressing

Heart of Romaine Salad with Pico de Gallo and Avocado Dressing

I spent last week gallivanting around Denver with old friends, sharing meals with favorite bloggers and admiring those Colorado clouds—clouds so fluffy and low that I wanted to reach up and run my fingers through them.

In contrast, this week has gotten the best of me. It started going downhill when my short, direct flight home turned into a lengthy tour of Missouri by air. Too bad I couldn’t see out the window from the middle seat. Since then, I’ve been trying to do two weeks’ worth of work in one, all while starring in my own personal episode of Extreme Makeover: Pantry Edition. (You should see my pantry now!)

red onion and pico de gallo

Sometime between Denver and now, summer changed to fall. It’s still tomatoes-and-sandals weather here in the middle of the country, though, so I thought we could hang onto summer’s last breath with one more colorful, crisp salad. Pumpkin-and-scarf weather will be here soon enough.

(Although, if you’re raring for fall produce, I’ve got you covered. Try this sweet potato burrito smothered in avocado sauce, butternut squash chipotle chili with avocado or chipotle-glazed delicata squash. You might also like this kale, black bean and avocado burrito bowl.)

avocado, cilantro and salad ingredientsavocado dressing and romaine wedgeMexican romaine wedge salad

Heart of Romaine Salad with Pico de Gallo and Avocado Dressing
5.0 from 3 reviews
Recipe type: Salad
Cuisine: Mexican
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
A "hearty" romaine salad served on a bed of spicy black beans with pico de gallo and creamy avocado dressing. This beautiful salad would be great to serve for company or a casual night at home.
Cherry tomato pico de gallo
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, sliced into small rounds
  • ½ small purple onion, chopped
  • ⅓ cup loosely packed cilantro, chopped
  • 1 jalapeño, deseeded and membranes removed, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
  • 2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon olive oil
  • ⅛ teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
Creamy avocado-cilantro dressing
  • 1 large avocado, halved and pitted
  • 2 limes, juiced
  • ⅓ cup cilantro leaves
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
Spicy black beans
  • olive oil
  • ½ small red onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
  • 1 teaspoon cumin powder
  • 2 cans (14 ounces each) black beans or about 3½ cups cooked black beans, with the cooking liquid
  • ½ teaspoon chili powder
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon sherry vinegar
  • salt, to taste
  • 2 hearts of romaine, halved lengthwise
  • Optional garnishes: toasted pepitas, crumbled feta cheese
  1. Make the pico de gallo: in a medium bowl, toss together all of the ingredients and set aside to marinate.
  2. Make the dressing: in a food processor or quality blender, combine the avocado flesh, lime juice, cilantro, red pepper flakes and salt. Blend while drizzling in the water and olive oil. Continue to blend until the dressing is smooth and creamy.
  3. Warm the beans: in a large skillet, heat a drizzle of olive oil over medium heat. Sauté the onion and garlic for a couple of minutes, then add the cumin and sauté for another minute. Pour in one can of black beans with all of its cooking liquid, then drain the other can, reserving the juices for later if necessary. Pour the remaining beans into the pan and stir in the chili powder and cayenne pepper.
  4. Turn up the heat to medium-high and simmer the beans for 7 to 10 minutes. Use a fork or the back of a wooden spoon to mash up about ½ of the beans. Reduce heat as necessary and add more of the cooking liquid if the mixture seems too dry. Remove the beans from heat and stir in the sherry vinegar and salt, to taste.
  5. To serve, place a generous amount of beans on a salad plate, then top the beans with a romaine halve. Spread several spoonfuls of avocado sauce over the romaine and top it with lots of pico de gallo. Garnish with toasted pepitas or crumbled feta cheese, if you'd like.
Feel free to substitute fresh lime juice for either (or both) of the vinegars.


  1. says

    This looks phenomenal! I’m ready to transition to fall flavors, but a few lingering summer recipes are totally okay with me. ;) SO great to finally meet!! Hang in there, girl. I can definitely relate to “the crazy” that has been happening lately. Must be something in the air. xo

  2. says

    My husband is working late tonight so I am on my own for dinner and this seems like the perfect no fuss dinner for one! So simple and hearty. By the way I wore flip flops on a walk today and felt so stupid, but it is still like 75 here! Pick a season Chicago!

  3. says

    LOL as I read this, I’m eating a stuffed sweet potato with black beans and avocado – you and I must be having similar fall cravings! This sounds delicious, and I love the cilantro avocado dressing idea! Pepitas seem to be making their way into every salad I eat these days, and you’ve given me another reason to enjoy more. Gorgeous photos!

  4. says

    Beautiful salad. I love the idea of having a giant head of romaine all to myself. I think I’ll be sticking with fresh salads for a while, even though winter is on its way.

      • Claire says

        P.S. Kate, I turned my mom onto your site and the other day she wrote me: “I was browsing for a chopped kale recipe and ran across this one from your friend, Kate.” I think maybe she doesn’t quite understand how blogs work… either that or I talk about you too familiarly on my little site.

  5. says

    Hey there, I have to tell you that I could eat some version of an avocado salad every day for lunch and never get sick of it! I always add chunks of avo, and am digging your pureed dressing. Now I have to poke around to see if I have everything else to make this my lunch today:)
    Good luck with your busy week!

    • says

      Erin, it’s always so nice to hear from you. I love avocado in any form, but I’ve been really into avocado dressings lately! I like to mix in salsa verde sometimes, too. Hope you have a wonderful weekend lined up!

  6. says

    Even though I feel Fall in the air, it’s actually still sandals and tomatoes weather here, too :) But, I’m itching for squash (although I am sure I’ll get soo sick of it!). Jealous you got to spend time with miss Kelsey! xo

  7. Denise says

    Wow, just wow! I made this for supper tonight with salsa chicken burgers, and I am SO glad that I made enough pico, avocado dressing and black bean puree to have leftovers, because this ROCKED!I didn’t add any crumbled feta, and I don’t think it needed any, it was soooooo flavourful. Thank you SO MUCH for developing and sharing this!

    • says

      Yes! Thanks, Denise! I wish all feedback about my recipes could be as positive as yours. Delighted that you loved the salad so much.

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